Where Do You Put Your Children on Snow Days?

Ellen Bravo wrote a piece for the Nation this week about the conundrum of childcare on snow days. Kids get snow days from school but parents still have to work. It just doesn’t add up!

Some cities have found a common-sense solution. Ordinances guaranteeing that workers can earn paid sick days are starting to include language that allows workers to use those sick days when schools are closed for public health purposes. Everyone benefits from these laws—families already on the brink have more money to spend, which helps boost the economy, and businesses don’t have to pay to hire and train a new employee.

Unfortunately not many cities have this policy, and not everyone has paid sick days, either. One would hope that an employer would be understanding in situations like this — but many either aren’t or can’t be. Bravo’s piece, for instance, revolves around a woman in Chicago named Rhiannon Broschat who lost her job at Whole Foods when she missed work to stay home and take care of her special needs kid on a snow day. Schools were closed that day by the city, and her back-up childcare was unavailable, so she unfortunately had no other options and is now out of a job. Also this:

[My former co-worker Teresa] described a similar experience on a day when schools were closed because of sub-zero weather here in Milwaukee. Because of our organization’s personnel policy, she was able to stay home with her kids. At 6:30 that morning, a woman she recognized but did not know from her neighborhood knocked at her door holding the hand of a 5-year-old boy.

She asked whether Teresa was staying home that day, and then said, “You look like a nice person. Will you watch my son? I’ll be fired if I don’t go in.” The lack of paid time off puts many working parents in desperate situations.

All over the country, parents are losing jobs or vital income because of conflicting orders: public health officials instructing parents to keep kids home, and bosses threatening to fire workers who don’t come in. No one should be out in the cold for being a good parent.

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9 Comments / Post A Comment

samburger (#5,489)

My place of employment gives us ample personal days, which you’re encouraged to take for snow days, and it provides emergency daycare. Also you can work from home pretty much whenever.

My last place of employment had zero paid time off, regardless of circumstances, and you would indeed lose your job if you missed too many days, regardless of circumstances. It also paid a fraction of what my current employer pays.

It CRUSHES MY SOUL that the highly paid get the benefits they don’t need and the low paid don’t get the benefits they do need. I feel like I say that all the time but I have lived in both worlds in the course of a year and the difference just blows my mind.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Someone in the comment section on Gothamist made a similar point*, noting that the point of going to school isn’t just because it’s a job (for both kid and teacher) but also “but that it was a
part of the community where people took care of each other.”

* He/she was relating a teacher’s perspective.

Winter (#4,527)

That tweet is just annoying for so many reasons.

franklina (#3,924)

Also, for many children, school provides the only hot meal(s) they get all day. I think Carmen Farina pointed this out in her remarks this morning, or maybe it was additional commentary in whatever article I read.

We need something in between canceling school completely and requiring kids & teachers to come in (okay, “parents’ discretion,” but it still counts against students & schools as far as attendance). Combine classrooms for teachers who can’t make it in, have lots of silent reading time or play games, don’t give tests so kids who choose to stay home don’t fall behind, but provide structure and food for kids who can get to school and/or don’t have any other options.

gl (#5,458)

@franklina Having a safe place for students to go if parents have to go to work would be ideal, certainly, but in some cases not practical or safe. Having grown up in a small town in Wisconsin, I can safely say that there were some days where having schools open, even partially, would have been a public safety nightmare with negative effects that would have far outweighed the benefits of having schools open. The place where I grew up had nothing to speak of in the way of public transportation, so sending kids to school meant school buses or cars on extremely unsafe and icy roads. Many kids lived in the country where the roads wouldn’t be plowed until the afternoon. This isn’t safe and there’s a reason that schools were closed on days with extreme snow and ice.

The onus should be on employers and on governments to ensure that closing schools is feasible for the families affected. The onus should NOT be on the schools themselves, which is what you are suggesting, particularly when having the schools open can be dangerous. I’ve seen too many cars stranded in ditches and seen too many winter accidents to think that having schools open under those conditions is a good idea.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t times when schools are closed unnecessarily. When I was in middle school we got a new superintendent who was originally from the South. So many unnecessary snow days that school year! And certainly there are days that are on the borderline where kids not coming to school shouldn’t be penalized. But to do away with snow days entirely is a dangerous proposition.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

@franklina I agree with gl that it isn’t a good option to have schools open when the weather is bad. Around here the YWCA and some churches will have special events on snow days, to help with childcare for people who have to work, and that give the kids lunch. The Y does charge, but it’s better than staying home from work for some people.

franklina (#3,924)

@lemonadefish Should have been more specific – I was referring to NYC where school buses aren’t a factor (for most of the student population) and public transportation is up and running on days like today, despite the snow. Obviously we don’t want school buses on the road in iffy weather.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

I feel so lucky to be able to work from home. We have a fair amount of latitude on not coming in due to weather (so long as we are working from home, we can pretty much say it’s too rainy to drive). My husband gets sent home from work any time schools are closed, or any time a flake of anything frozen falls out of the sky (his company is very safety-oriented).

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